Unusual destinations that offer you a treasure trove of Islamic art
- 11 July 2018
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Collage (clockwise from top left): Ceramic Bowl with two facing peacocks from the Lusterware from Iraq to Al-Andalus gallery at The Met Museum (Credit: Public Domain Press resources by the Met); Sheki Khan's Palace in Baku, Azerbaijan(Credit: Official Azerbaijan Travel Instagram Account); The World of the Fatimids Exhibition at the Agha Khan Museum (Credit: Agha Khan Museum Facebook Page); and The Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Credit: Discover Uzbekistan Instagram Account)
Spanning over 1,400 years and featuring a wide range of domains, from architecture to calligraphy, Islamic art is not just a representation of religious beliefs and events but an artistic movement encompassing many peoples and territories under the Islamic civilisation.
The seventh century marked the beginning of an Islamic Golden Age, during which the Islamic realm stretched from northern India in the East to southern Spain in the West. Over the course of the following centuries, Islamic arts and culture left a footprint in many places.
Islamic works of art from this period included Arabic calligraphy (which was also incorporated in many other types of art from this period), textiles, carpets and fabrics, painted glass and ceramics, as well as a distinct architecture style that’s most evident in mosques, mihrabs and minarets.
The following destinations, though far away from the heart of the Islamic world in the Arabian Peninsula, offer a dive into the distinct artistic style of Islamic civilisation.
The Registan Square in Samarkand, Uzbekistan (Credit: Discover Uzbekistan Instagram Account)
The city, located in the northeastern part of Uzbekistan, is known for its ancient history going back more than two-and-a-half millennia. Samarkand is also recognised as a part of the Silk Road, the ancient trade network between the East and the West.
Featuring architectural landmarks documenting an era of Islamic urban development from the Timurid period (between the 14th and 15th centuries), the city is currently on the UNESCO’s World Heritage List. The most significant heritage locations are beautifully constructed mosques, such as the Bibi-Khanum Mosque and the Registan Mosque.
NEW YORK, U.S.A.: THE METROPOLITAN MUSEUM OF ARTS
The Metropolitan Museum of Arts, also called the Met, is the largest museum in the United States, and their Islamic arts section, comprising more than 12,000 pieces, dates back to 1891, shortly after the museum’s inception.
Ceramic Bowl with two facing peacocks from the Lusterware from Iraq to Al-Andalus gallery at The Met Museum, USA (Credit: Public Domain Press resources by the Met)
The Islamic art objects on display cover the 7th to the 19th centuries and include furniture pieces, panels, painted glass, metalwork, textiles, jewellery and ceramics. In addition to featured art pieces, gallery talks focusing on specific themes and objects on display are occasionally held as well at the museum.
TORONTO, CANADA: AGHA KHAN MUSEUM
The World of the Fatimids Exhibition at the Agha Khan Museum in Toronto, Canada (Credit: Agha Khan Museum Facebook Page)
Established in 2014 by the not-for-profit Agha Khan Development Network, the Agha Khan Museum is dedicated to offering visitors a window into the artistic, intellectual and scientific contributions of Muslim civilisations to world heritage. The museum displays more than a thousand art pieces from the 8th century onwards throughout the exhibition areas.
A 17-acre open green park surrounds the building, which also houses two exhibition galleries, areas for art conservation and storage, and a 350-seat theatre. In addition to art galleries, hundreds of performing-arts events have been hosted since its inauguration, including showcase performances, youth programs, lecture-demonstrations and film screenings.
Sheki Khan's Palace in Baku, Azerbaijan (Credit: Official Azerbaijan Travel Instagram Account)
Once a part of the ancient world’s important trade routes, including the Silk Road, Baku is not only the capital of Azerbaijan but also the largest city of the Caucasus region. Architecture in Baku features multiple cultural eras, including medieval, Islamic and Soviet styles.
Dating as far back as the 12th century, stone buildings, mosques, and palaces displaying magnificent craftsmanship and the Islamic architectural style, such as the Palace of the Shirvanshahs and the Bibi-Heybat Mosque, can be seen at the core of the old/inner city. Baku was named the Islamic Culture Capital for the year 2009, and many of the cultural sites in the city are also listed on UNESCO’s Tentative World Heritage list.
(Editing by Seban Scaria email@example.com)
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